How I Get Top Grades in UG

HowardRoark's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 347

Full disclosure: I'm currently a senior about to graduate in May, and unless I flunk every class this semester, I will leave with a 3.9 and summa cum laude honors from a public university. I see a lot of people on Wall Street Oasis who I feel are much smarter than me-- at least brainpower-wise--, but simply can't get good grades. I figure that I may as well share what's worked for me and what hasn't during my four years of college.

I can already predict what the critics will say. If I had gone to an ivy league school, I probably wouldn't even be able to muster up a 3.0. If I had majored in a S.T.E.M. field, my grades would be nowhere near as good. This might be true, as I did not attend a top school nor underwent a S.T.E.M. major, but please note that I worked part time, 15-30 hours a week every single semester after my first and that I double majored, had a separate minor, was on an honors track, and held leadership positions in my fraternity and random organizations on campus.

I achieved the above through a combination of smart time management skills, being intensely honest with myself about behavior I was prone to, and having a unique outlook on schoolwork. Let's jump into it:

  • Always study in isolation - Forget about study groups, and eliminate any kinds of distractions. When I need to study, I go to my school's library with just a textbook, a notepad, and a pen. I don't bring my laptop as I know I'll jump on Facebook or start surfing the net. Self-awareness is a beautiful thing to have. I will go to the highest floor in the library, find the spot with the least number of people, and just go H.A.M. (hard as a mafucka) with the preparation.

  • Have a purpose in studying - I found early on that I couldn't just "study." I had to maintain a tangible objective. Did I want to read 300 pages in my textbook? Be able to answer all of the practice questions? Memorize a certain set of words? Rote memorization never works-- always have a measurable goal that you're trying to achieve during every study session.

  • Don't fight procrastination - You know you're going to procrastinate, so don't bother promising yourself you'll finish a project a week early or study for an exam every day for two months. Use procrastination instead of fighting it, but move the deadline 1-7 days in advance. For example, I once had a 30-page thesis paper to write. Like all good teachers, my professor told me I should do a little bit every day. I knew I wouldn't do it until the very end of the semester, so I didn't. Instead of trying to do a little bit each day, I simply forgot about it until the last two weeks. I then briefly mentioned to my professor that I'd probably be giving him a final draft a week ahead of the deadline, in case he saw anything that needed major revision. At that point, a tight deadline motivated the hell out of me, and I ended up deeply focus as I wrote the paper. I got an A+.

  • Use nontraditional resources - When I took Intermediate Microeconomics, or Price Theory, I found myself overwhelmed by the professor's materials. The textbook was extremely dense, and her lectures were often rushed and confusing. I ended up doing well in that class. How? I would watch youtube videos teaching price theory, and bought a price theory study guide. I tailored what I found in these resources to fit her syllabus, and found myself engaged and understanding the material on a very intuitive level.

  • Sit in the front of class and participate - Not enough people do this. So many students immediately sit in the back of the classroom on the first day, thinking they're brilliant for now being able to surf the net or text during class. Instead, if you sit in the front and participate, you're forced to pay attention-- quickly putting you at a distinct advantage.

These are just some things that aren't usually taught, but help tremendously. It's not enough to just "study harder," you need to have tools and a plan.

Please share the tips and tricks you've found to help get better grades in school.

Comments (21)

Jan 27, 2013

Awesome... loved those ideas!!

Jan 27, 2013

What helped me the most:

Set ambitious, realistic and first of all SMALL goals for everything you do - This kept me very motivated. Need to read a book? Give yourself four days time. And set the goal of reading chapter 1-7 today. Then, aim to read 2 chapters within the next hour. And so on. If you do this, you will have small senses of achievement everytime you get a little job done, even if its just reading the next 3 pages within 5 minutes.

Jan 27, 2013

Great post, man. Thanks for the tips!

"Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal" - Nietzsche

Jan 27, 2013

Good post, definitely agree with studying in isolation. I know it differs for everyone, but I can't study without music for too long. No lyrics, just trance or chillstep or the sort.

Jan 27, 2013

Always set small goals with specific deadlines. e.g. 5-6pm finish philosophy ch.4, 6-7pm do half of math problem set

Take 10 min breaks for every hour you study
+
Listen to white noise which blocks everything out.
+
Study in the morning
=
Adderall-like concentration. I can probably pound out a solid weeks worth of work in 4 hours

~High GPA Crew~
~Firms Reach Out to Me Crew~
~Round Down My GPA to Look Modest Crew~
~Never Use 'Incoming' on LinkedIn Crew~

Jan 27, 2013

+1

Commitment to one's own actions, can even inspire doing business as a PE fund.

http://www.roarkcapital.com/about_name.php

    • 1
Jan 27, 2013

+1

Great stuff

Jan 27, 2013
HowardRoark:


  • Use nontraditional resources - When I took Intermediate Microeconomics, or Price Theory, I found myself overwhelmed by the professor's materials. The textbook was extremely dense, and her lectures were often rushed and confusing. I ended up doing well in that class. How? I would watch youtube videos teaching price theory, and bought a price theory study guide. I tailored what I found in these resources to fit her syllabus, and found myself engaged and understanding the material on a very intuitive level.


  • Please share the tips and tricks you've found to help get better grades in school.

    which study guide did you get for price theory econ? I'm taking it this semester and I can tell it's going to be one of those classes where I'll have to go above and beyond.

    Jan 27, 2013

    +1. Isolation tip is the best one. I'm in high school right now but after I finish, I hit up the local college library and study my butt up off until late evening. Then hit the gym and catch the bus home. You gotta put the hours in!

    Jan 27, 2013

    yolo

    Best Response
    Jan 27, 2013

    Read the textbook!

    This is the main reason a lot of my friends got poor grades in their classes. They would just go to their lecture/discussion classes, and just go off the notes and lecture materials. They wouldn't read the book at all.

    A lot of people think that they don't need to read the book because the professor will just repeat the material in the lecture - they don't. Classes typically cover chapters in the book in 1 or 2 lectures - that is an impossibly small amount of time to get everything from the book into the lecture. All of my professors would just pick 2 or 3 main topics from the chapters and lecture on them, and then people would bomb the tests because material that was unfamiliar to them would be presented.

    I LOVED when my professors would include a tentative reading schedule with the syllabus. If you just imagine in your mind that every reading assignment was worth 10 or 20 points it really lights a fire under you to get it done. In fact, what I would do is print off the reading schedules and tack them up on the walls around my desk so they would always be in your face. I've found that if your assignments are always in your face I'll be more encouraged to get them done.

    Also, when reading material, highlight the important parts!

    Highlighting as you go along forces you to slow down and comprehend the material better. Highlight the main ideas of the sections and chapters. Then, when your done, write down everything you highlighted in a notebook and take that notebook to the lectures and compare your notes with what the professor said.

    I've taken to highlighting everything I read from my textbooks, outside finance books, to WSO guides and I can always immediately tell that I'm absorbing the information a lot better than I otherwise would.

      • 2
    Jan 27, 2013

    good GPA in a gut major at an uncompetitive school. so what?

    Jan 27, 2013
    ivoteforthatguy:

    good GPA in a gut major at an uncompetitive school. so what?

    //www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/why-we-hired-a-non-...

    WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

    Jan 27, 2013

    Good post.

    Jan 28, 2013

    Another good tip is to plan ahead in as many ways as possible. Try to do a 4-year plan as a freshman (or early on), use a planner for homework assignments, and a calendar for classes/events/meetings/midterms. Google Calendar is the best resource for this I think.

    Jan 28, 2013

    Great stuff.

    I just want to note about sitting in front of class thing though, if you sit in class you should actually take the chance to make friends with the people you also commonly see always sitting in front and participating (you will begin to see similar faces). I've noticed that they tend to be the most intense of the bunch, the most likely to network correctly too, and knowing them will come in handy.

    Also about study groups since I feel like your advice is more specific to yourself, it's only a good idea if you're studying with someone with a significantly higher GPA than you. Someone with a 3.9+ is better off studying alone whereas someone with a 3.2 would probably improve when studying with a 3.9.

    73 good sir!

    Jan 31, 2013
    kc2siq:

    Great stuff.

    I just want to note about sitting in front of class thing though, if you sit in class you should actually take the chance to make friends with the people you also commonly see always sitting in front and participating (you will begin to see similar faces). I've noticed that they tend to be the most intense of the bunch, the most likely to network correctly too, and knowing them will come in handy.

    Also about study groups since I feel like your advice is more specific to yourself, it's only a good idea if you're studying with someone with a significantly higher GPA than you. Someone with a 3.9+ is better off studying alone whereas someone with a 3.2 would probably improve when studying with a 3.9.

    if the 3.2 is a hot woman, then yes, worth it.

    Jan 28, 2013

    I do not quite agree, at least at higher levels of your studies.

    Some contrasting advise on preparing undergraduate economics:

    Only read the textbook where this is absolutely unavoidable. If you have ever read a proper textbook like Romer (macro) or MasColell (micro), you will know that studying through a single chapter can require weeks of immersion. The marginal utility of doing so gets too small. This does of course not apply for easy intermediate books like Hal Varian.

    Instead, and importantly, memorize _all_ lecture material, in particular everything quantitative such as all derivations. Only read parts of the textbook that are _directly_ related. Don't use nontraditional learning resources. They are usually not required to understand model derivations, i.e. a waste of time.

    When utility becomes concave
    and outliers cease to be brave,
    think of the CAPM twist:
    that return grows as does risk.

    Jan 29, 2013

    I've been using some of these techniques too. Good to note on, thanks for sharing

    "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win" - Sun Tzu

    Jan 30, 2013
    Comment
    Feb 3, 2013

    Pages